The unforgettable images from Operation Cast Lead in which Israeli soldiers can be seen fighting among the Gaza Strip’s civilian population led the Civil Administration to make a decision: in combat, a Population Assistance Officer will be assigned to every battalion, the officer being in charge of population evacuation, the opening of humanitarian aid routes and evacuation of injured civilians to hospitals.
The position’s first training course will begin in December 2010 in the School for Communication and Coordination in Tzrifin and will train reserve officers.
According to COGAT, the course is expected to educate as many as twenty reserve officers for a week, covering the subject of the civilian component in combat.
The need for a role assisting civilian populations at a battalion level was raised following humanitarian issues during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in January 2009. At the time, Population Assistance Officers were assigned to entire brigades, operating under tremendous pressure. Ultimately, their role was regarded as essential to the success of a mission. 'During a fight, civilians are a component that absolutely must be taken into account and influences operations,' explained a representative from the School for Communication and Coordination. 'The operation made it even clearer that there is a need for these officers at the battalion level.'" (source)